Sunday, June 11, 2006

Way off topic...

Not immediately relevant to Howard County, but worth sharing nonetheless.

I went last night to see An Inconvenient Truth, the film profiling Al Gore's efforts to spread the word about climate change. Perhaps you've heard of it?

As someone who has studied (and taught) the science behind global warming and voted for Gore (and would do it again in a heartbeat), I'm obviously not an impartial reviewer. Still, it is a movie that everyone should see, even the converted but especially the non-converted (at least those willing to listen and put their ignorance aside for a couple hours).

In case you didn't know, the documentary follows Gore as he presents his climate change slide show around the world. The slide show is one that he has given 1,000 times for over a decade, and it has been regularly updated with the latest science (in some of the scenes, he presents rarely seen or previously unreleased data, many from as recent as 2005). It also includes several personal asides from Gore that many say make him finally look human. Of course, the awful conventional wisdom about Robot Gore was never really true to begin with, but that's beside the point.

Now, I can sense your trepidation about watching a two-hour slide show about science. But it's actually quite entertaining and tremendously inspiring.

There's been a backlash against environmentalism in general because of the gloom and doom scenarios often used by advocates to pressure government into action. Hysterical is a word I've heard used regularly in this discussion (it was also the same term used to describe and discredit Rachel Carson when she wrote Silent Spring).

To be sure, many of the potential warming scenarios are gloomy, but rather than leaving viewers with feelings of guilt and vilification, we're left feeling hopeful. Hopeful that small individual changes can have major impacts. Hopeful that the greatest country in the world can face and overcome yet another seemingly insurmountable problem. Hopeful that, in the words of James Rouse, "what ought to be can be, with the will to make it so."

The science has been there for many years. The movement to discredit scientists the same way the media has been discredited (LIBERAL BIAS!!!!!!) is one of the most shameful and infuriating aspects of the whole global warming "debate." Scientists, I'm sure, would be the first to admit that they care about the earth, but, somehow, all the work they do and all the findings they've arrived at are suddenly invalid because those who know squat about science think otherwise? I'm convinced that twenty years from now we'll look back at the way this issue was handled and feel utterly disgraced.

I don't want to give too much away, but Gore presents convincing arguments against the commonly-heard criticisms. Especially noteworthy is his take on the false choice between reduced carbon emissions and economic growth, something my not-very-environmentally-friendly macroeconomics professor admitted was an absurd characterization of the issue.

What's more,, an invaluable and authoritative site on global warming issues, looks at the science Gore uses and finds it pretty much spot-on.

But don't take my word for it. Go see the movie. It's at Muvico and The Charles in Baltimore now but opens at pretty much every theater next week.

Meanwhile, calculate your annual carbon dioxide emmisions here at a site hosted by, of all places, the Texas State Energy Conservation Office.

Also, here's information about US mayors who have decided that we should actually, you know, do something about global warming. I wonder if this is something our county or CA could sign onto.


Anonymous said...

Hardly way off topic. A very good topic, indeed. Remember "Think Globally, Act Locally"? We're way to myopic in our view of how much we're changing the world.

Good links, too.

A few more -
Rocky Mountain Institute's Winning the Oil End Game
The Oil We Eat
Soybeans Transforming South America

HoCo Exile said...

Hayduke--I haven't seen the movie yet, so I can't comment, but I love big AL and have the oversized portrait button from 2000 to prove it. We didn't see the slide show too much on the campaign trail back then did we?

Two questions: How does the film deal with Kyoto?

Is it a given that the treaty needs "tweaking" or is it treated as ready as is? Our 2 MD Senators voted against it in 96 (as did all senators voting in the non-binding test vote) when Gore was Vice Pres? Is it suddenly the answer now.

Two understandable issues are the lack of any "credit" for land preservation (the letter form the Mayors you link to mentions forest preservation) in Kyoto. Land use has an impact on climate change, although to a far, far lesser degree than fossil fuel useage.

The second issue no one want to mention is that Kyoto doesn't apply to everyone. Yes, we have a head start over emerging economies, but won't this just incetivize the movement of energy intensive industry to countries without caps? Even with a sliding scal, I think there needs to be universal invovlement since it is a worl wide issue.

But we both know this is simply about energy--and we produce almost all our energy from burning carbon based fuels and releasing CO2. Energy is a input to the world economy and the out put can be measured in GDP.

If the energy input drops, to maintain the same GDP, or standard of living really, we need to increase the efficiency with which we convert energy (as say oil) into money (gdp).

Did Al happen to mention how to do that? Or will there be a sequel?

Anonymous said...

I'm about 95% in the dark re: the Kyoto accord, but doesn't it need some tweaking? Doesn't Kyoto give both China and India a pass? Hasn't China's economy been growing by about 10% per year for the past decade? Add (China's less-than-sparkling and booming industries not being fettered by Kyoto) and [China's huge trade imbalance with us fueling their ability to buy soy and land for soy production in South America (which is rapidly accelerating deforestation of the Amazon, our planet's best CO2 scrubber)] and that equals lots more CO2 to enjoy.

It is a global problem, so *all* countries contributing to the problem should be proportionally responsible for providing solutions. And with us consuming 25% of the world's energy, a lot (but not all) of the responsbility rests with us.

As to how we increase the efficiency of turning E into $, there are many, many existing ways and many, many ways attainable short term with the right determination. Transportation, lighting, heating, cooling, energy generation, and industrial uses of energy can all be made more efficient with *existing* technology. Read the Rocky Mountain Institute's report (see previous link) for many of the ways available.

Existing advanced-combustion, airtight, catalytic-converter equipped, masonry pellet stoves can be more efficient and cleaner than gas furnaces. Induction and CFD lighting are also currently available. Even nuclear (with appropriate oversight) can provide part of the solution.

Solutions exist that don't result in reducing GDP.

Anonymous said...

I don't think Al needed to mention how to do that since George says we've already been doing it -
"... over the past 30 years, our economy has grown three times faster than our energy consumption ..."

I imagine many of your home appliances and your car are more energy efficient than whatever you had 30 years ago. Certainly similar efficiencies have been gained in industry as well. New commercial aircraft have more efficient engines and fuselages. Existing commericial aircraft have been retrofitted with energy saving enhancements.

So, GDP can increase without requiring an energy consumption increase as well. We just have to accelerate the rate at which we're applying these efficiencies.

Mary Smith said...

Does anyone know if the move is being released on DVD?

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